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Two Californias - Hanson

Two Californias - Hanson

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Published by PRMurphy
The last three weeks I have traveled about, taking the pulse of the more forgotten areas of central California. I wanted to witness, even if superficially, what is happening to a state that has the highest sales and income taxes, the most lavish entitlements, the near-worst public schools (based on federal test scores), and the largest number of illegal aliens in the nation, along with an over-regulated private sector, a stagnant and shrinking manufacturing base, and an elite environmental ethos that restricts commerce and productivity without curbing consumption.
The last three weeks I have traveled about, taking the pulse of the more forgotten areas of central California. I wanted to witness, even if superficially, what is happening to a state that has the highest sales and income taxes, the most lavish entitlements, the near-worst public schools (based on federal test scores), and the largest number of illegal aliens in the nation, along with an over-regulated private sector, a stagnant and shrinking manufacturing base, and an elite environmental ethos that restricts commerce and productivity without curbing consumption.

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Published by: PRMurphy on Dec 22, 2010
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12/22/2010

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woCalifornia’s
 Abandoned farms, Third World living conditions, pervasive public assistance--welcometo the once-thriving Central Valley.
ByVictor Davis HansonDecember 15, 2010
http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/255320/two-californias-victor-davis-hansonThe last three weeks I have traveled about, taking the pulse of the moreforgottenareas of central California. I wanted to witness, even if superficially, what is happeningto a state that has the highest sales and income taxes, the most lavish entitlements, thenear-worst public schools (based on federal test scores), and thelargest number of illegal aliens in the nation, along with an overregulated private sector, a stagnant andshrinking manufacturing base, and an elite environmental ethos that restricts commerceand productivity without curbing consumption.During this unscientific experiment, three times a week I rode a bike on a 20-mile tripover various rural roads in southwestern Fresno County. I also drove my car over to thecoast to work, on various routes through towns like San Joaquin, Mendota, andFirebaugh. Andnear my home I have been driving, shopping, and touring by intent therather segregated and impoverished areas of Caruthers, Fowler, Laton, Orange Cove,Parlier, and Selma. My own farmhouse is now in an area of abject poverty and almostno ethnic diversity; the closest elementary school (my alma mater, two miles away) is94 percent Hispanic and 1 percent white, and well below federal testing norms in mathand English.Here are some general observations about what I saw (other than that the rural roadsof California are fast turning into rubble, poorly maintained and reverting to what Iremember seeing long ago in the rural South). First, remember that these areas are theground zero, so to speak, of 20 years of illegal immigration. There has been a generaldepression in farmingto such an extent that the 20-to-100-acre tree and vinefarmer, the erstwhile backbone of the old rural California, for all practical purposes hasceased to exist.On the western side of the Central Valley, the effects of arbitrary cutoffs in federalirrigation water have idled tens of thousands of acres of prime agricultural land, leavingthousands unemployed. Manufacturing plants in the towns in these areaswhich usedto make harvesters, hydraulic lifts, trailers, food-processing equipmenthave largelyshut down; their production has been shipped off overseas or south of the border. Agriculture itselffrom almonds to raisinshas increasingly become corporatizedand mechanized, cutting by half the number of farm workers needed.Sounemployment runs somewhere between 15 and 20 percent.Many of the rural trailer-house compounds I saw appear to the naked eye no differentfrom what I have seen in the Third World. There is a Caribbean look to the junked cars,electric wires crisscrossing between various outbuildings, plastic tarps substituting forreplacement shingles, lean-tos cobbled together as auxiliary housing, pit bullsunleashed, and geese, goats, and chickens roaming around the yards. The public hearsabout all sorts oftough California regulations that stymie businessrigid zoning laws,
 
strict building codes, constant inspectionsbut apparently none of that applies outhere.It is almost as if the more California regulates, the more it does not regulate. Its publicemployees prefer to go after misdemeanors in the upscale areas to justify ourexpensive oversight industry, while ignoring the felonies in the downtrodden areas,which are becoming feral and beyond the ability of any inspector to do anything butfeel irrelevant. But in the regulators’ defense, where would one get the money to redoan ad hoc trailer park with a spider web of illegal bare wires?Many of the rented-out rural shacks and stationary Winnebagos are on former smallfarmsthe vineyards overgrownwith weeds, or torn out with the ground lying fallow.I pass on the cultural consequences to communities fromtheloss of thousands of smallfarming families. I don’t think I can remember another time when so many acres in theeastern part of the valley have gone out of production, even though farm prices haverecently rebounded. Apparently it is simply not worth the gamble of investing $7,000 to$10,000 an acre in a new orchard or vineyard. What an anomalywith suddenlysoaring farm prices, still we havethousands of acres in the world’s richest agriculturalbelt, with available water on the east side of the valley and plentiful labor, gone idle orin disuse. Is credit frozen? Are there simply no more farmers? Are the schools so bad asto scare away potential agricultural entrepreneurs? Or are we all terrified by thenational debt and uncertain future?California coastal elites may worry about the oxygen content of water available to athree-inch smelt in the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta, but they seem to have nointerest in the epidemic dumping of trash, furniture, and often toxic substancesthroughout California’s rural hinterland. Yesterday, for example, I rode my bike by astopped van just as the occupants tossed seven plastic bags of raw refuseonto the sideof the road. I rode up near their bumper and said in my broken Spanish not to throwgarbage onto the public road. But there were three of them, and one of me. So I waslucky to be sworn at only. I note in passing that I would not drive into Mexico and, as aguest, dare to pull over and throw seven bags of trash into the environment of my host.In fact, trash piles are commonplace out herecomposed of everything from half-empty paint cans and children’s plastic toys to diapers and moldy food. I have neverseen a rural sheriff cite a litterer, or witnessed state EPA workers cleaning up theseunauthorized wastelands. So I would suggest to Bay Area scientists that theenvironment is taking a much harder beating down here in central California than it is inthe Delta. Perhaps before we cut off more irrigation water to the west side of thevalley, we might invest some green dollars into cleaning up the unsightly andsometimes dangerous garbage that now litters the outskirts of our rural communities.We hear about the tough small-business regulations that have driven residents out of the state, at the rate of 2,000 to 3,000 a week. But from my unscientific observationsthese past weeks, it seems rather easy to open a small business in California withoutany oversight at all, or at least what I might call a “counter business.” I counted elevenmobile hot-kitchen trucks that simply park by the side of the road, spread about someplastic chairs, pull down a tarp canopy, and, presto, become mini-restaurants. Thereare no “facilities” such as toilets or washrooms. But I do frequently see lard trails on the
 
isolated roads I bike on, where trucks apparently have simply opened their drainingtanks and sped on, leaving a slick of cooking fats and oils. Crows and ground squirrelslove them; they can be seen from a distance mysteriously occupied in the middle of theroad. At crossroads, peddlers in a counter-California economy sell almost anything. Here iswhat I noticed at an intersection on the west side lastweek: shovels, rakes, hoes, gaspumps, lawnmowers, edgers, blowers, jackets, gloves, and caps. The merchandise wasall new. I doubt whether in high-tax California sales taxes or income taxes were paid onany of these stop-and-go transactions.In twosupermarkets 50 miles apart, I was the only one in line who did not pay with asocial-service plastic card (gone are the days when “food stamps” were embarrassingbulky coupons). But I did not see any relationship between the use of the card andpoverty aswe once knew it: The electrical appurtenances owned by the user and thecar into which the groceries were loaded were indistinguishable from those of the uppermiddle class.By that I mean that most consumers drove late-model Camrys, Accords, or Tauruses,had iPhones, Bluetooths, or BlackBerries, and bought everything in the store withpublic-assistance credit. This seemed a world apart from the trailers I had just riddenby the day before. I don’t editorialize here on the logic or morality of any of this, but Inote only that there are vast numbers of people who apparently are not working, areon public food assistance, and enjoy the technological veneer of the middle class.California has a consumer market surely, but often no apparent source of income.Doesthe $40 million a day supplement to unemployment benefits from Washington explainsome of this?Do diversity concerns, as in lack of diversity, work both ways? Over a hundred-milestretch, when I stopped in San Joaquin for a bottled water, or drove through OrangeCove, or got gas in Parlier, or went to a corner market in southwestern Selma, myhome town, I was the only non-Hispanicthere were no Asians, no blacks, no otherwhites. We may speak of the richness of “diversity,” but those who cherish that idealsimply have no idea that there are now countless inland communities that have becomenear-apartheid societies, where Spanish is the first language, the schools are not at alldiverse, and the federal and state governments are either the main employers or atleast the chief sources of incomewhether through emergency rooms, rural healthclinics, public schools, or social-service offices. An observer from Mars might concludethat our elites and masses have given up on the ideal of integration and assimilation,perhaps in the wake of the arrival of 11 to 15 million illegal aliens. Again, I do not editorialize, but I note these vast transformations over the last 20 yearsthat are the paradoxical wages of unchecked illegal immigration from Mexico, a vastexpansion of California’s entitlements and taxes, the flight of the upper middle class outof state, the deliberate effort not to tap natural resources, the downsizing inmanufacturing and agriculture, and the departure of whites, blacks, and Asians frommany of these small towns to more racially diverse and upscale areas of California.Fresno’s California State University campus is embroiled in controversy over the studentbody president’s announcing that he is an illegal alien, with all the requisiteprotests in

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